|'Our motto is 'You'd better bring your track shoes,'' Erick Green says. (Getty Images)|
Then the guy who had recruited him to Virginia Tech, James Johnson, was hired -- virtually out of nowhere -- and Green decided to stick around. Now he's become one of the most productive players in the country, leading his team in scoring and also leading the Hokies to a shocking 7-0 start -- including a huge upset over Oklahoma State on Saturday.
"People didn't give us a chance," the 6-foot-3 Green said. "Especially with a whole new staff."
The loss of Dorian Finney-Smith (who transferred to Florida) and Montrezl Harrell (who backed out of his commitment and landed at Louisville) didn't help matters.
"I'm not going to lie," Green said. "We lost two guys we could really use. I was worried. But then we started playing pickup, and I thought we had a chance -- especially with our new style."
The new style is different from the one that Greenberg ran a year ago. Despite not boasting a ton of depth, Johnson has opted to play fast.
"Our motto is 'You'd better bring your track shoes,' " Green said.
Green entered the game averaging 24.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He had 28 points and seven boards in the win over Oklahoma State, but he hasn't been a one-man show in Blacksburg. Jarell Eddie has been terrific, averaging 17.5 points and 6.7 rebounds entering the game and finishing with a double-double (15 points and 12 rebounds). Robert Brown added 18 points and six boards, and Cadarian Raines chipped in with 10 points and a half-dozen rebounds.
Green said the biggest difference in his game has been his confidence level, believing he's one of the top guards in the nation. He proved it going up against one of the elite freshmen and overall players in the country, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. Green said that the duo started off guarding one another, but Green got into foul trouble and was switched off Smart defensively. Smart finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and no turnovers.
"He's a really good player," Green said. "He didn't play like a freshman. He's very poised, led his team and has a knack for winning. He sees the floor, is good on pick-and-rolls and plays really hard. I was really impressed with him."
Green said that despite the team's 7-0 start, he knows it won't change the perception of the Hokies.
"People are still going to doubt us," he said "We need to be humble but also believe. We're a good team, but we want to be a great team."
Next up is a road contest against West Virginia, then three consecutive home games against Mississippi Valley State, Georgia Southern and Bradley before heading to Provo for a game at BYU. I'm not sure Virginia Tech can sustain this and enter ACC play with a loss or two, but one thing is for certain: Green's decision to remain in Blacksburg has made the Hokies relevant. At least for now.